As the MLB season approaches, it's time for fantasy baseball players to prepare for their draft. Here's a look at the best first basemen for your fantasy baseball team, along with tiers to help you prioritize during your draft.
1. PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT, CARDINALS
Implausibly looking up at the Mendoza Line into late May, Goldschmidt was the ultimate buy-low bargain of 2018 for cunning rotisserians who know the cream eventually rises. He made scorched earth of the baseball landscape by going .328-28-70 in his last 110 games and finished with a .922 OPS that was 25 points higher than any other first sacker. He’s as automatic as it gets.
2. FREDDIE FREEMAN, BRAVES
Freeman resides in Tier 1.5 — squarely behind Goldy but securely ahead of the next echelon. With just one 30-HR and 100-RBI season apiece on his resume, he’s more sturdy than sensational, although an ever-lengthening Braves lineup could make him less avoidable for pitchers. Only he and Mike Trout have slashed .300/.380/.500 in each of the last three campaigns.
3. RHYS HOSKINS, PHILLIES
Just six players have ever hit their first 50 homers quicker than Hoskins. No qualifier last year saw more pitches per plate appearance (4.42). A mere four could match his tandem of extra-base hits and walks. And that was just his first full season. He needs to pump up the .249 career AVG to respectability, and he needs to not go 0-for-5 with the bases loaded again.
4. ANTHONY RIZZO, CUBS
At some point within the last five seasons, Rizzo has staggered four consecutively of at least 89 runs, 31 homers and 101 RBIs — all while keeping his batting average north of .270 and tossing in a handful of swipes. His seasons tend to be circuitous, but he always ends up at the same destination.
5. MATT OLSON, A’S
One sign that Olson is becoming an actual hitter instead of just a home run hitter is that he boosted his preposterous rate of one double per 108 PAs of 2017 to one per 20. His 2017-18 HR% was higher than the likes of Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper and Edwin Encarnacion, and with his 25th birthday coming during Spring Training, he hasn’t yet tapped into the mainline.
6. JOEY VOTTO, REDS
The only thing “Vottomatic” about Joey is that he’ll always get his walks. Last year he basically stepped into the batter’s box and stood there, spitting on anything not in his postage stamp strike zone. Who knew Joey Wendle would have the better year? That said, Votto’s six 25-HR seasons and .311 career AVG must be respected, just not taken for granted.
7. DANIEL MURPHY, ROCKIES
The duration and consequence of Murphy’s knee woes were initially underestimated, but when he got off the hamster wheel, he was the same old laser show: .328-11-32-36-3 in his last 256 ABs. He couldn’t have signed with a better team for his style of rakesmanship. He’s an instant batting title contender — perhaps a co-favorite with Jose Altuve — in a home park where he’s a .348 hitter since 2012.
8. ERIC HOSMER, PADRES
Evidently Hosmer got left off Statcast’s listserv. Of the 332 players with 150 balls in play, he was dead last in launch angle. That would have been fine if he’d come anywhere close to his fourth straight 90-RBI season, third in a row with 25 HRs or usual lofty AVGs. Right now he’s mired in the worst of two worlds, but hey, he averages .303-20-86-87-9 in odd-numbered years.
9. JESUS AGUILAR, BREWERS
To quote the t-shirts Aguilar’s teammates rocked to promote his All-Star Game candidacy: We Believe in Jesus. He was a late-career castoff who landed in the right spot at the right time, capitalizing on Eric Thames’ early injury with 35 HRs and 108 RBIs. He was nothing special in the second half, though.
10. JOSH BELL, PIRATES
In a season not dissimilar to Hosmer’s, Bell forgot how to hit home runs and, at times, how to hit at all. His dozen, following 26 as a rookie, tied Votto for 18th among the 20 qualified first basemen. His steadfastly patient approach and relative lack of swing-and-miss lend hope that this was just a hiccup in his development.
11. YULI GURRIEL, ASTROS
It’s apparent that Gurriel is not going to hit the longball, but two 2018 numbers stand out: his position-high 88.3% contact rate and Astros-record .403 AVG with RISP. Those sustain his significance in three categories.
12. JUSTIN SMOAK, BLUE JAYS
Smoak’s 63 home runs the last two years top American League first sackers. Because he’s a strikeout-ridden .233 career hitter, he has never driven in nor scored more than 90 runs in any of his nine campaigns.
13. MIGUEL CABRERA, TIGERS
Having been dry-docked for three big hunks of the last four seasons, we really don’t know who Cabrera is anymore. We do know he’s about to blow out 36 candles, which doesn’t bode well for his prognosis. Miggy’s a different kind of cat, though, and he went .316-38-108-92-0 as recently as 2016.
14. JAKE LAMB, DIAMONDBACKS
Lamb’s career was booming (59 HRs, 196 RBIs in 2016-17) until a wooly 2018 slate during which months of indecisiveness on the state of his shoulder left him with vacuous stats and, ultimately, surgery. Put him on your buy-low radar.
15. MAX MUNCY, DODGERS
The “R” in WAR (the letter that stands for “replacement player”) — Muncy virtually had that tattooed onto his forehead until 2018. Left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft and released by the A’s, he joined the swelling ranks of players who revived their careers with a swing overhaul. His 7.3 HR% was No. 2 in the game (400+ PAs). Skepticism warranted.
16. RYON HEALY, MARINERS
Healy’s 2018 campaign (.235-24-73-51-0) was an apparent retreat, but a closer look at his walk, strikeout and home run ratios actually imply headway. A .257 BABIP also worked diabolically against his raw numbers.
17. YANDY DIAZ, RAYS
The Rays did their homework on this one, recognizing that Diaz’s hard-hit rate stands among the top 20 in the majors the past two years. He’s also big and strong; he just hasn’t learned lift. With the daily opportunity he never had in Cleveland (not only at 1B, but also DH and 3B), he’ll blossom.
18. YONDER ALONSO, WHITE SOX
The last three big league seasons are included among the five in history in which at least 100 players popped 20 or more home runs. We project at least two dozen teams will have one of them playing first base this year, which makes a hitter like Alonso, who has no true carrying category, quite generic.
19. RYAN ZIMMERMAN, NATIONALS
He’s 34 and has drifted out of notoriety, but Zimmerman can still swing it. His 2017-18 OPS of .892 dwarfed his .776 from 2011-16. It’s just that he’s played more than 115 games but once in the last five seasons.
20. RONALD GUZMAN, RANGERS
It was a numbingly bland rookie season for Guzman in 2018, chiefly because of his lack of zone command. He does have the stature to hit some home runs, with the mid-20s as soon as this year not out of the question.
21. Brandon Belt, Giants
22. C.J. Cron, Twins
23. Luke Voit, Yankees
24. Justin Bour, Angels
25. Peter Alonso, Mets
26. Mitch Moreland, Red Sox
27. Chris Davis, Orioles
28. Ryan O’Hearn, Royals
29. Matt Adams, Nationals
30. Eric Thames, Brewers
31. Albert Pujols, Angels
32. Peter O’Brien, Marlins
33. Wilmer Flores, Diamondbacks
34. Greg Bird, Yankees
35. Lucas Duda, Twins
36. John Hicks, Tigers
37. Steve Pearce, Red Sox
38. Dominic Smith, Mets
39. Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners
40. David Freese, Dodgers